BackPress is Coming Back From the Dead

photo credit: Frankenstein (1931) - (license)
photo credit: Frankenstein (1931)(license)

WordPress developers Roy Sivan and John James Jacoby have taken a keen interest in reviving the BackPress project. They will be discussing their plans to bring it back to life on a live Google Hangout at 1PM PST (8pm UTC) today, June 16.

BackPress is a PHP library of core functionality for web applications. It essentially provides the core of bbPress and powers the GlotPress application, which enables WordPress, BuddyPress, and bbPress to be translated into different languages.

It’s no secret that bbPress project lead John James Jacoby is an ardent fan of BackPress, but few could have predicted that the project would be making a come back. In Sivan’s announcement in the Advanced WordPress Facebook group, he briefly outlined their intentions for BackPress’ future:

After a few conversations at WordCamp Miami, we both want to bring it back. My vision is for it to be up to date with current WP, and for it to be the WP you install when you don’t want the Dashboard, but to build something from scratch using modules / plugins.

Commenters responded positively to the announcement and Sivan and Jacoby plan to open the project up to contributors in the near future.

“The current state of BackPress is a mess,” Sivan said. “Unfortunately, it can’t be just overwritten, so our main goal is to talk action plan, how to get it to a place that is more up to date, then start adding modularity to it.

“My vision is you still get the easy installer, but things like wp-admin are just modules, and even modular within that per UI, but that shall be discussed as we move forward.”

Once the BackPress code is up to date, the duo hope to turn it into a usable starting point for application development.

“This + JSON REST API could be the next evolution of WordPress for developers,” Sivan said.

For more details on the history of BackPress, check out Jeff Chandler’s 2010 interview with Beau Lebens. If you’re interested in the future of the project, make sure to tune in at 1PM PST. The Google Hangouts link will be posted in the comments of the announcement. Here’s a link for those who are not part of the group:

31 Comments


  1. I hope this comes to fruition. I’d love to have a lean mean core to build from.

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  2. I did asked already myself if I could get commit access to it due to the fact that GlotPress needs changes badly. It’s a shame that the people who care about BackPress has almost nothing to say or do something about it.

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    1. When I asked if we can just scrap and start new, the answer was always NO because GlotPress and a few BBPress instances need to stay compatible. I don’t have commit access, but GlotPress is something we are going to be talking about, if not today then in the near future.

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      1. Well bye bye Backpress as a better tool for WP skeleton apps. This backwards compatiblity crap prevents people to think new. Here heres a fine little box, do whatever you want inside that little box. Just remember it needs to fit into that round hole.

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      2. Things have happened since Backpress was first released. Sticking to what has been is no way to deal with what will be.

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      3. I agree, but the conversation has to be had first, maybe BackPress isn’t the best solution moving forward, maybe something new is needed

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      4. BC works for a CMS but it hard to make it work for a framework like BackPress. I will almost say it’s crap for a framework. That is the thing that should push changes and if WordPress then wants BC then it needs to make the right changes needed.

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      5. Funny part is that I heard it was SupportPress and if I remember correctly other old stuff at Automattic. For me changing BackPress what will cause breakage would not be an issue. I can then make the right changes in GlotPress.

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  3. It would be nice if they made their announcement in a public forum instead of a closed Facebook group :(

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  4. Whilst back press is a great idea. This makes no sense as a standalone project. Really core itself should look to back press itself.
    Wp core should choose a release (say 4.6) and as part of that release make itself properly modular and stick to being modular for all future releases.

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    1. That won’t happen.. so we are looking at creating a solution that lives INLINE with WP development, but a little more modularized, taking what the good is from WP and removing all unnecessary. I think keeping it inline with WP development is going to be crucial for it to stay alive.

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      1. If it doesn’t happen there is no point as core will move on and your version of backpress will be a modularised version of an older version of core.

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  5. Awesome project! I know it’s a big undertaking but once it’s updated it will be a great value.

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  6. It would probably be better to start from scratch, it’s not even close to up to date with current WP code it was meant to emulate.

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    1. I think the takeaway from today is to decide what it is the dev community wants out of WP, and see if feature plugins are the way to go, or if there is some validity in building out this system (whatever it may be called) as what we hope can be re-integrated into core at some point. Whether that means taking backwards compatibility into account or not that has yet to be seen. The discussion will continue next week, same day, 1 hour later :) And we learned our G Hangout lesson.

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      1. It’s a fun experiment regardless, especially if people don’t think of it as Official WordPress Policy or Future (which it isn’t).

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      2. As long as you aren’t offended, then an experiment it is. One thing to consider is that 23%+ of the web isn’t the target demographic to be using something like this. It is the 1% of WP Developers those that want to build something and are facing limitations, even if it’s just the “one size fits all” admin. Instead of having them turn to Laravel, or another framework, why not use WP since they love it, but have it a bit more slim

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      3. I realistically believe that a large % of that 23% of the web means also a large bulk of orphaned websites who probably still run WP 2.8 or something. The 1% Roy mentions is likely where the best WordPress can bring is. This 1% needs love because it’s where one can make a good argument in how WordPress can be a very decent platform.

        In the Hangout yesterday it was mentioned an important thing: it’s difficult to give contributions to core when it’s one single, fat application, not really OOP. It’s hard to tell what does what. It scares away people, especially newcomers, who might want otherwise to contribute and improve WordPress and instead go elsewhere. I remember Matt mentioning once that he would like too that new generations liked PHP a bit more than the older one; well current status of things certainly not helping.

        I think it’s very hard to see it happening, but I also think everyone would benefit from modularizing WordPress. BackPress, aside of the name and its past history, could be an event dispatcher library where one can attach the modules needed (the wp-admin is a module). The WordPress.org distribution would be just a packaged application that includes the modules that make WordPress as we know it today. However this would allow developers to repackage WordPress with their chosen modules or alternative modules. This can make each module more maintanable and rewritten, introduce dependencies between modules, use composer and so on.

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  7. @nekojira – I agree, I think in an ideal world if there is a need to build this experimental project, it would be 100% modular. Where you can choose to even initiate plugins at all. Bare Bones WP would maybe look like a collection of objects / classes that handle database, wrapped with WP common language (creating / getting a post type)

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    1. I agree. Very much like you and I and others were saying in our AWP discussion of WordPress++.

      A collection of classes that can be glued together as needed but with one (or more) common ones already done.

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  8. If you want to Join in on the slack channel to discuss and be part of future hangouts join the #backpress channel (which may be renamed) on https://advancedwp.slack.com

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    1. How do I get access to advancedwp.slack.com? It says I need to be invited by the team administrator.

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      1. Sergey – email matt (at) wordimpress (dot) com to get an invite. Sorry we couldn’t get anything really public as far as Slack goes.

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  9. I find this so baffling. For me the main positive of WordPress is the UI: it’s simple, well-known, well-made, easy to extend.

    The main downside of WordPress is the back-end: it’s SO limited in terms of the data model. You can’t relate objects properly. You can’t add meta to taxonomies. I hit the limits of it so often.

    Why would you remove all the WordPress goodness and leave yourself a highly-restricted framework?

    If you’re going to code yourself a front-end, why wouldn’t you just use Laravel or Ruby on Rails to build yourself a much more flexible and easier-to-customise back-end for it rather than have to bully WordPress’s puny data model and API’s into doing what you need it to?

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    1. BackPress or the project as it is evolving, isn’t “lets get rid of the UI” its “lets rethink how WP is coded” So i agree, lots of the backend internals are not GREAT, but that is what we are trying to address… IF there is a need to create a sister project that addresses these, or if they can be made into feature plugins.

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